Yoweri Museveni wins general elections amidst controversy

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General elections held in Uganda on 18 January 2016 to elect the president and members of parliament.

President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 sought re-election for his fifth term extending his power into a fourth decade despite increasing opposition from Ugandan citizens clamouring for change. Kizza Besigye, who had run against Museveni in 2001, 2006 and 2011 proved to be his strongest opponent in this elections.

Kizza Besigye who has been Museveni’s strongest opponent was arrested as the country wrapped up voting for the presidential elections, which the opposition alleged, had been rigged in the favour of the incumbent. Ugandan police arrested Besigye as he and his supporters tried to show reporters an alleged voter rigging operation. Besigye was placed on house arrest despite concern from citizens and election observers over Besigye’s detention, harassment of opposition figures and the shutdown of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media was cut off by the Uganda Communications Commission citing security reasons without giving details for shutting down social media channels for the entire day.

Police officials said they were at Besigye’s home as a preventive measure to ensure a further escalation of violence and denied detaining him.

Kizza Besigye at the polling station

Kizza Besigye at the polling station

Besigye had been Museveni’s field doctor during the war that brought him to power, and served as deputy interior minister in his first cabinet.

Besigye severed ties with Museveni in 1999, stating that the president was no longer a democrat. He rejected the outcome of the elections and called it a sham.

Claims of rigging and violence at polling stations were reported and voting was extended in several locations after reports of people not being allowed to cast their votes. Opposition candidates claimed that the elections were marred by widespread fraud, voting irregularities, repeated detention of opposition candidates and a climate of voter intimidation.

Despite widespread reports of voting irregularities, the electoral commission rejected criticism and said it had conducted the elections in a free and fair way.

The electoral body declared Museveni the winner of the elections with more than 60 percent of the votes cast, Besigye obtained 35 percent of the votes.

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